I have offers for tenure-track computational biology positions at a couple of U.S. research universities. What sort of things do I need to budget for in my startup package?

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    As it may be useful, what sorts of things are normally covered in grants. For example, can you get grant funding for support staff, or computer hardware? – Fomite May 1 '12 at 0:13
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    Congratulations, btw :) – Suresh May 1 '12 at 20:28
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    COFFEEE!':) and computers – Caffeinated May 1 '12 at 22:26

I'll hopefully be in your position in another year or two, so I'm not speaking from experience. But a few things come to mind:

  • Laptop (be specific) and associated technical support
  • Any software licenses you need to complete your research and teach
  • Office space and furniture
  • Lab space
  • Lab equipment (be specific)
  • Access to shared lab equipment as needed (be specific)
  • Access to server(s) where you can test your code/algorithms/etc.
  • Access to cluster computing resources (if that fits in with your research)
  • Lighter teaching load your first 1-3 years
  • Lighter service load your first 1-3 years (not sure if that's something you would explicitly ask for though)
  • Salary (and benefits where applicable) for any students, staff, post-docs you will need to be successful in getting papers and grants written
  • Money for other miscellaneous expenses that you envision will be necessary
  • Money to travel to 1-2 conferences per year

I'm sure others could think of more to add...

  • I would want to stress the point Salary (and benefits where applicable) for any students, staff, post-docs you will need to be successful in getting papers and grants written. This and your salary is usually the biggest chunk of any negotiation. Most other things on the list are cheap, but how many staff you get are deciding expenses for the faculty, but vital for you. – xLeitix Jan 9 '14 at 14:11

In many departments, while it might seem like you're negotiating with the department, you're actually negotiating with the dean and the department is really trying to help you. If there's a way to determine this (talk to recently hired faculty at the department), then it changes your strategy, because now your goal in the negotiation is to provide the department with plausible arguments (not iron-clad) for why you need what you need.

There are probably comp bio specific needs you have for which you should consult colleagues who've recently joined other universities, or even any senior mentors you have who sit on the other side of these negotiations. For generic things, Steve P's list is great. Just remember that each department at each university has their own customs and things they "usually" give out - you don't have to stick to that, but it's good to know what the baseline is.

Also, it always helps to provide justification (for equipment, student support, postdoc money, and so on). It's a lot harder to argue for salary raises unless the school is private (since public schools often have fixed scales).

Bottom line though: there's no harm in asking as long as you can provide a reason. Definitely ask for all that you need, and let them whittle you down.

  • Good point that you are often negotiating with the dean, rather than your department. – Dan C Jul 25 '12 at 5:08

Congratulations on the offers.

With respect to negotiations, you should privately keep track of what you really need, and then ask for a bit more than that in the negotiations. Since the department (or university) will likely want to negotiate downwards, starting with just what you need might leave you after negotiations with a somewhat undersized package.

To borrow from Steve P's answer, however, perhaps the single most important component that can help you get the group off the ground is to get as much salary support for additional employees as you can. Having that first postdoc and grad student can make a huge difference in a new group.


I would add to the list of @Steve

  • Summer salary
  • Duration for which start up capital is good (if you get a grant, you want to be able to keep your startup)
  • Lab renovations
  • Moving expenses
  • Web page design
  • Page charges

You want to provide whoever you are negotiating with justification, and ideally quote(s), for everything. In general, they want to give you as good of a startup package as possible.

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